Cuomo Tightens State Gathering, Restaurant and Bar Guidelines as Students Prepare to Leave Campus for Break

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new statewide COVID-19 restrictions as cases continue to source across the country last Wednesday, Nov. 11, according to the New York Times. The new restrictions, which went into place Friday, Nov. 13, restrict private indoor gatherings to 10 people or less and mandate the closure of in-house seating at restaurants and bars nightly at 10 p.m.

“The reason we have been successful in reducing the spread in New York is we have been a step ahead of COVID. You know where it’s going; stop it before it gets there. And you know where it’s going by following the science. This is the calibration that we’ve talked about: increase economic activity, watch the positivity rate – if the positivity rate starts to go up, back off on the economic activity,” Cuomo said in last Wednesday’s press release.

The mandate caused Donavan’s Pub and the Chobani Cafe to move to takeout-only after 10 p.m. for the remainder of the in-person portion of the semester, according to the campus-wide email about the new restrictions last Thursday. As cited in the email, the new restrictions on gathering limitations at private residences only impact students living in private, off-campus housing. 

“[The new restriction] only applies to private residences,” Associate Vice President for Campus Safety, Emergency Management and Environmental Health and Safety Dan Gough said. “Everybody in the [24 hours after the announcement] have been asking me questions…does this apply to this event or in-person classroom…it doesn’t. The gathering limit of 50 for the state is still the same with the exception of private residences.”

Senior Sydney Frydman, who lives off-campus in downtown Hamilton, said while she understands the need for the new restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise statewide, she wishes it accounted for the difference in case numbers between areas across the state.

“Cuomo is trying to do his best in protecting New York. I do wish that the new rule was based on county or town, because of how great Colgate has been at limiting Covid cases,” Frydman said. “It has affected the end of my semester in some ways, but I have just been trying to spend time with my closest friends before we have to go home.”

At the time of Gough’s email to the community on Friday, how the private residence gathering restriction would impact gathering limits inside campus residential spaces remained uncertain. Per Gate 4 guidelines, gathering limitations in campus residences remains at 50 people with masks and proper social distancing.

The University will continue its conversations with the county and the state to determine whether University-owned housing is subject to these restrictions. Regardless of a gathering’s size and location, physical distancing must be maintained and face coverings must be worn, as required by New York State law and Colgate’s Commitment to Community Health,” Gough said.

While Gough commented that infection rates remain strikingly low on campus, the sources of infection on campus align with the statewide trends that caused Cuomo’s new guidelines to tighten restrictions as cases rise, a sentiment shared by Cuomo’s rationale in the release of the new regulations.

“The three sources we see as the most right now are restaurants and bars, gyms and fitness centers and small gatherings at private residences,” Gough said. “And that is what Cuomo said in his press conference [Wednesday] — that’s why they picked those three restrictions. I would imagine as infection rates continue to go up in New York state —including central New York because they’re rising in central New York as well — we’re going to see more restrictions. And likely one that has a limitation outside of private residences.”

Despite numbers on campus showing zero active cases among all on-campus students, staff and faculty according to the Health Analytics Dashboard, Gough warned of the increased risk created by state and county cases rising that he says the campus community isn’t immune from. Likewise, the Dashboard shows a moderate and increased trend for risk in infection rates in Madison and the surrounding counties.

“I would say there’s a reason why those infection control measures or restrictions were put in place. It’s because the risk has increased. And students and all community members need to be mindful of that. It’s not arbitrary, there’s a reason behind it,” Gough said. “In a global pandemic, you should be limiting your number of contacts regardless of what New York State limitations are and it is an absolutely accurate statement that large gatherings or even medium size gatherings are a source of infection.”